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HPPA Industry News

  • 10 Oct 2023 10:45 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Tekweld – ranked the No. 26 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has announced it will be taking over the sales and marketing for Pioneer Line products within the U.S. promotional products industry.

    Under the arrangement, Pioneer Balloon will continue to produce and print balloons sold by Tekweld while focusing on manufacturing and distributing balloons through its other sales channels.

    “Tekweld is a recognized leader in customized promotional items for trade shows, including sanitizer, drinkware, bags, acrylic items and more,” says Scott Slade, CEO of Tekweld. “We can now improve the customer experience by also offering table covers, tents and other promotional products our customers need not only for indoor and outdoor events, but also for advertising at car dealerships, festivals and more. In addition, we’ll further increase market share by offering custom printed AdRite and Qualatex latex and Qualatex Microfoil balloons throughout the promotional industry.”

    “This alliance capitalizes on the strengths of both companies going forward,” Dan Flynn, CEO of Pioneer Balloon. “We’re truly excited to be part of this great partnership with Pioneer Line powered by Tekweld. This team will ensure the highest quality products and service to our promotional products distributors.”

    Ray Rodriguez, who stepped down as vice president of sales and marketing for Tekweld in June and launched supplier consultancy 5P Promo in July, was instrumental in bringing Tekweld and Pioneer Balloon together.

    “I feel like I have come full circle as Pioneer Line was one of the first lines I picked up to represent when I had my repping firm back in the ‘90s,” Rodriguez says. “I'm truly excited about bringing these two premier lines together to form a strong sales and marketing one-two punch in the promotional industry.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 10 Oct 2023 10:41 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Industry veteran Harvey Mackler arrived in Tel Aviv on Thursday ahead of a scheduled dedication of an 1,100-year-old bible.

    But he hasn’t left his floor at the Tel Aviv Hilton since early Saturday morning, when the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, in which more than 700 people were killed, CNN reported.

    “We can hear the Iron Dome missiles intercepting the Palestinian missiles,” says Mackler, MAS, former owner of promotional products supplier GEMPIRE, which was acquired by Massachusetts-based supplier Pin Machine in July. “For the last two nights, we’ve experienced air raid sirens. We evacuate to the stairwell and wait for the ‘all clear.’ My Israeli friends who aren’t in the reserves won’t drive under the current conditions. The beach has been empty, as has the vehicular traffic.”

    Hamas fighters are holding more than 100 Israeli hostages in Gaza, a spokesperson for the militant group said on Sunday, CNN reported. Mackler’s flight home is scheduled for Thursday, and Israel’s national airline El Al is still operating as of Monday morning.

    “One of the objectives of terrorism is to influence one’s life,” Mackler says. “As the national airline of Israel, [El Al] has to keep flying.”

    In spite of this weekend's Hamas attacks, Harvey Mackler, MAS, on Monday attended the dedication of a historic bible at Tel Aviv's ANU Museum of the Jewish People. The 1,100-year-old text is the world's oldest known nearly complete copy of the Hebrew Bible. Mackler says: "Our Bible tells a story, but what an extra story this one has!"

    Asked what industry friends and colleagues could do to offer support on a humanitarian basis, Mackler asked for donations and prayers, but also to remind legislators of the atrocities committed by Hamas.

    Hostile Situation

    Anne Kleinman and Chaim Jaroslawicz of the nearly 40-year-old distributor Ad Infinitum moved to Israel a couple years ago. Their company continues to bill from New York.

    Located about 20 minutes outside Jerusalem in a town surrounded mostly by Arab villages, they heard two sirens and saw the interceptions of a few missiles on the first morning of the war. Anne says they fear that the residents of the surrounding villages will get restless and try coming into all the surrounding Jewish areas to perpetrate their own terrorist incidents. 

    “We want people to see the images and videos of the brutal treatment of civilians – none of whom were off-limits to kidnapping by these animals,” Kleinman says. “Everyone around the world needs to understand that this isn’t a war of armies, it’s the war of terrorists for whom no one and nothing is off limits and the Israeli army, who is trying to minimize civilian casualties on the other side.

    “I hope in the coming weeks when this war is continuing people will remember who started this war and the brutality with which they started it, and that there won’t be calls for Israel to sign a cease-fire.”

    With an office set up in their safe room, Kleinman and Jaroslawicz will remain working as long as they have power and an internet connection. Although they’re appreciative of colleagues’ concerns, they’re focused on operating as usual. Anne recalls the disruption to their business in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, in which Chaim was injured during the terrorist attacks.

    “I would like to ask all our supplier partners to please treat our call as if we were sitting in Florida, Texas or Wyoming,” she says. “Help us process our orders and take care of our clients. We’ll tell you if we need something special or some special help.”

    Fallout Of The War

    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip and the cutting off of food, fuel, electricity and water supplies, the BBC reported.

    Nine U.S. citizens are confirmed dead as of Monday morning, according to a National Security Council spokesperson.

    American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have all suspended flights in and out of Israel, as the U.S. State Department has issued travel advisories for the region, The Associated Press reported.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 9 Oct 2023 10:45 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Hit Promotional Products – ranked the No. 4 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has announced the hiring of industry veteran Jon Norris as vice president of business process improvement.

    “Welcoming Jon is a testament to our commitment to lead, innovate and excel in the promotional products industry,” says CJ Schmidt, CEO of Hit.

    Norris’ Background

    A former PPB Rising Star and a 2020 #Online18 honoree, Norris has spent nearly 20 years at Starline – ranked the No. 13 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – most recently serving as chief operating officer.

    He’s also a co-founder and current leadership team member of PromoStandards, a group of industry IT professionals who focus on the development of technology standards to enable system-to-system communication in an effort to reduce the cost of business between suppliers and distributors.

    “Jon brings a unique blend of expertise in technology, operations and the promotional products industry,” says Eric Shonebarger, president of Hit. “This synergy is anticipated to foster efficient workflows, increase operational capacity and reduce quality challenges. His depth of knowledge introduces a fresh perspective and enhances our already dynamic and dedicated team.

    “With Jon on board, we’re poised to elevate our operational excellence and offer an even more outstanding customer experience.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 5 Oct 2023 1:04 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    BAMKO – ranked the No. 4 distributor in this year’s PPAI 100 – has announced the hiring of Brad White as its vice president of business development.

    In the newly created role, White will play a critical part in the Los Angeles-based company’s global business development. He’ll be heavily involved with the development and support of BAMKO's sales personnel, particularly in talent acquisition and enterprise sales efforts.

    “We’re beyond thrilled to add Brad to the team,” says Jake Himelstein, president of BAMKO. “This is a statement about our willingness to invest in the industry's best talent as a way of supporting the growth and success of our sales team. Beyond being an optimal culture fit for our action-oriented, dynamic philosophy of being a sales-first company, Brad is going to play an important role in upholding our core commitment to our salespeople: the promise that BAMKO will do everything in our power to maximize their success.”

    White’s Background

    With more than 25 years of experience in the promotional products industry, White has worked as director of promotional marketing at Taylor Promo Marketing (PPAI 103553, D12) – ranked the No. 11 distributor in this year’s PPAI 100 – and vice president of business development at Boundless (PPAI 267078, D11) – promo’s 14th leading distributor in the PPAI 100. He most recently served as senior vice president at casino merchandise specialist Gander Group.

    “I've been a long-time admirer of the BAMKO team and their approach to growth,” White says. “There just isn't a better collection of high-level talent anywhere else in the industry and it's a dream come true to have the opportunity to be a part of that team. What the BAMKO team has built the last few years is unlike anything I've ever seen in my time in this industry. My plan is to be the best teammate I can possibly be and I'm eager to be a part of the success that we get to have together.”

  • 2 Oct 2023 10:26 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Proforma – ranked the No. 5 distributor in this year’s PPAI 100 – has announced the hiring of Mike Dobozy as its new chief technology officer and the promotion of former CTO Brian Carothers to chief information officer.

    “We’re very pleased to welcome Mike Dobozy, who is a proven technical visionary and leader with a wealth of experience and innovative technical expertise,” says Vera Muzzillo, CEO of Proforma. “We’re also thrilled to recognize Brian Carothers, who is the best of the best for his accomplishments. Together, their business acumen and hands-on management styles will be critical to Proforma’s industry-leading technology initiatives as we continue our expansion and innovation in automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

    Tech Prowess

    With more than 20 years of technical experience, Dobozy comes to the promotional products industry from software development firm Red Hat, where he served as principal architect.

    “Having worked with Fortune 25 clients, I’m very impressed with the software, team and processes that Proforma has developed,” Dobozy says. “I look forward to adding my expertise and experience to the development of seamless automation, efficient workflow and intelligent decision making in the ProVision platform.”

    “I’m thrilled to help welcome Mike into the Proforma family,” Carothers adds. “His deep expertise in artificial intelligence and platform automation at scale make him the perfect addition to accelerate our industry-leading technology.”

    Acting as CTO at Proforma since 2015, Carothers has overseen the Independence, Ohio-based distributor’s IT department and managed all development, analysis and project management resources.

    • Named the 2023 PromoStandards Distributor of the Year, Carothers has contributed his experience to the creation and implementation of standards for the utilization and advancement of data in the promotional products industry.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 2 Oct 2023 10:21 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    For the ninth consecutive year, Orbus Visual Communications®, has been named one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation. Orbus is North America’s largest producer and manufacturer of visual communications solutions for tradeshows and events, retail environments, and workplace interiors.

    The Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation competition determines companies that implement exceptional human resource practices and commit to their employee’s health and happiness. Companies are rated in categories such as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition, and retention.

    This recognition reaffirms Orbus’ commitment to fostering an environment where employees thrive personally and professionally. Orbus is proud to be included in the list of 385 winners out of 2,700 nominations for 2023. Along with an employer questionnaire, Orbus employees were surveyed as a part of the selection process.

    “Our continued recognition as one of The Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation is a testament to the dedication and passion of our incredible employees,” said Gary Keefer, CEO of Orbus Visual Communications. “An empowered and fulfilled workforce is the cornerstone of our success and we commit to providing an environment that nurtures personal growth.”

  • 29 Sep 2023 1:21 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    It’s “Tua Time” for Perry Ellis International (PPAI 255232, S8) – ranked the No. 36 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100.

    The global fashion house has announced a partnership with Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, in which the NFL star will serve as a global brand ambassador.

    “We're incredibly excited to unveil a long-term partnership with Tua,” says Oscar Feldenkreis, president and CEO of Perry Ellis. “As a remarkable talent, both on and off the field, Tua is the quintessential Perry Ellis man. In his position as a star quarterback, it's all about performance, and he is ‘Always Ready to Make the Play,’ which complements our brand ethos ‘Always Ready.’ We're proud to welcome Tua to our own team as an ambassador and creative inspiration.”

    Product Launch

    The partnership also extends to a product collaboration inspired by Tagovailoa’s Hawaiian-Samoan heritage. Using elements like earth and water for inspiration, the collection emulates the lush mountains, oceanic horizons, bright florals and textual foliage of the islands. The collaboration is set to launch in the summer of 2024.  

    “This is a fun project for me,” Tagovailoa says. “I appreciate the versatility, optimism and inclusion that Perry Ellis values through its designs and business. I'm excited to be working so closely with the Perry Ellis team and to have the full support of an iconic American brand.”

    The Doral, Florida-based firm is also partnering with the Tua Foundation to focus on youth initiatives, health and wellness programs and various charitable causes. Currently, the Tua Foundation is actively dedicating its resources to assist Maui families affected by the devastating wildfires.

    Written by John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 29 Sep 2023 1:13 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    PPAI has announced the recipients of its 2024 Icon Awards: PPAI Hall of Fame inductee Dave DeGreeff, MAS, and PPAI Distinguished Service Award recipient Bill Petrie.

    These awards celebrate the accomplishments of those who have gone above and beyond in service to the promotional products industry, the Association and their communities.

    Honoring The Icon Award Recipients

    Traditionally, recipients of the Association’s most prestigious awards have been recognized at the Chair’s Leadership Dinner at The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas. Beginning in 2024, Icon Award recipients will be recognized with two distinctly special events to bring more significant awareness to their accomplishments.

    As part of The PPAI Expo Conference on January 15, recipients will receive official on-stage recognition and be guests of honor during a networking luncheon. Additionally, each recipient will be part of a panel discussion during the luncheon, allowing them to share stories and wisdom with the audience.

    Anyone can sign up to attend the luncheon when they register for The PPAI Expo. Those who have already registered can return to their confirmation page and add a ticket to the luncheon.

    That evening, the Chair’s Leadership Dinner will be held as a private, “invitation only” experience at an extremely memorable location: Rivea, atop the Delano Hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. The night will kick off with a reception, followed by dinner, as recipients enjoy a high-end, unique experience for themselves and their guests.

    The PPAI Hall Of Fame

    Celebrating individuals who have demonstrated monumental and selfless efforts and devotion to the promo industry, induction into the PPAI Hall of Fame gives permanent recognition to those whose creative spark and tireless dedication have helped the Association and industry prosper.

    DeGreeff’s 40-plus-year career in the promotional products industry began in the late 1970s as a regional sales manager for Hazel, Inc. In 1984, he launched DCD, a multi-line rep company that he ran for two decades. In 2003, he became president of Asgard/Flagship Promotional Services. Over the next 10 years, he also served as special assistant to the CEO of AIA Corporation and senior vice president of U.S. markets at BigBang Corporate Apparel.

    Always looking to give back to the industry and make a difference in the community, DeGreeff has served on many PPAI committees, including being on the PPAI Board of Directors from 2011 to 2013. In addition to serving on the board of the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF), he has also been executive director of both the Promotional Products Association Southwest (PPAS) and the Houston Promotional Products Association (HPPA). In 2016, DeGreeff was named a PPAI Fellow, and in 2018, he was inducted into the HPPA Hall of Fame.

    Peter Hirsch, MAS, founder and president of HIRSCH, credits DeGreeff with being the first to volunteer for the Hurricane Katrina relief program in 2005, working tirelessly for almost two weeks helping with the collection and distribution of donations. In 2017, after Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, DeGreeff was back again to help with the effort.

    “His list of volunteering positions speaks volumes about this dedicated man and his love and support of the promotional products industry,” says Hirsch, recipient of the 2022 PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award. “His exemplary record in the business arena and his volunteer commitments to this industry put him shoulder to shoulder with past recipients of this prestigious award.”

    The PPAI Distinguished Service Award

    The annual PPAI Distinguished Service Award is presented to Association members who consistently contribute their skills and expertise toward the betterment of the organization. Through volunteer service or by offering their leadership to PPAI, these are members who have generously given the gift of their energy, time and enthusiasm.

    With 23 years of experience in promo, Petrie, founder and creative director of brandivate – a business services agency based in Hendersonville, Tennessee – has been a long-time advocate for the industry.

    Currently a PPEF trustee and incoming vice chair for 2024, Petrie has served in various roles on the boards of both the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS) and the Regional Association Council and has volunteered with many PPAI committees. He’s also been a Legislative Education and Action Day participant on Capitol Hill and a frequent speaker at PPAI and regional events.

    A devoted educator within the industry, Petrie contributes content for Promo Marketing and regional association newsletters. He’s also a former chef and board member with PromoKitchen, an all-volunteer organization that provides mentorship in the industry. In 2016, he was named a PPAI Fellow.

    “Bill Petrie is a giver and leader in the promotional products space,” says Kirby Hasseman, CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications and Petrie’s co-host on the “Promo UPFront” podcast.

    “Bill works tirelessly to elevate the industry through creating valuable content and through mentoring. In addition, Bill is a leader who’s willing to say the challenging thing in order to make things better. While that can be a thankless role, it’s imperative. The promotional products space is lucky to have Bill Petrie and I am honored to call him my friend.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 20 Sep 2023 9:12 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted to approve a mandatory standard to reduce button cell and coin battery ingestion hazards to children six years and under.

    Both suppliers and distributors in the promotional products industry should be aware that these batteries are used in many types of products, such as a variety of toys, wireless video game controllers, musical greeting cards and keyless entry remotes.

    “Now that CPSC has finalized Reese’s Law, and has adopted ANSI/UL4200A-2023 as the mandatory standard for consumer products powered by button cell batteries and not covered by the ASTM F963- The Toy Safety Standard, it is urgent that all members of the promotional products industry comply,” says Rick Brenner, MAS+, president and CEO of Product Safety Advisors and long-time co-chair to PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit.


    Enacted August 16, 2022, Reese's Law mandates that the CPSC implements federal safety requirements for button cell or coin batteries, as well as consumer products containing such batteries.

    • These requirements don’t apply to toy products for children under 14 if the products comply with the Toy Standard.
    • Additionally, the law requires that any button cell or coin battery offered for sale, manufactured for sale, imported into the U.S. or included separately with a consumer product, meet the child-resistant packaging requirements in the Poison Prevention Packaging Standards after February 12, 2023.

    Consistent with Reese’s Law, the mandatory standard – ANSI/UL 4200A-2023 – requires either the use of a tool, such as a screwdriver or coin to open the battery compartment, or the application of at least two independent and simultaneous movements to open by hand.

    Additionally, such consumer products must pass a series of performance tests simulating reasonably foreseeable use or misuse. The standard also includes labeling requirements for consumer products containing button cell or coin batteries, and labeling requirements for consumer product packaging.

    Safety Hazard

    According to the CPSC, the consequences of a child swallowing a button cell or coin battery can be immediate and deadly. The tiny batteries can burn through a child’s throat or esophagus in as little as two hours if swallowed.

    • From 2011 through 2021, the CPSC is aware of 27 deaths and an estimated 54,300 injuries treated in emergency rooms associated with ingested or inserted button cell or coin batteries.

    The movement to promote child safety regarding button cell and coin battery ingestion was spearheaded by Trista Hamsmith, whose 18-month-old daughter Reese Hamsmith died from injuries sustained when she swallowed a coin cell battery in December 2020. Since that time, Hamsmith has worked tirelessly to protect other children from similar hazards.

    “I thank Trista Hamsmith and the congressional champions of this legislation for all of their work to provide the commission with expedited authority to address this safety hazard,” wrote CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric. “I also want to thank the CPSC staff for providing the necessary support and analysis to bring us to this important moment. With these changes, we’ll help reduce the number of deaths and injuries from these consumer products.”

    Promo’s Next Steps

    The new law will take effect 180 days from the date that it is published in the Federal Register, which has not happened yet. Promo industry suppliers have an opportunity to evaluate their product line and determine if their non-toy button cell powered products already meet the standard or will have to be redesigned.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission is presenting at this year’s Summit on Reese’s Law. The event will be held October 8-10 in Alexandria, Virginia. Click here for more information and to register.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 20 Sep 2023 9:07 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    One of promo's largest family-owned companies has appointed a new leader that was not born into the business.

    New York-headquartered Starline, the No. 13 supplier in the 2023 PPAI 100, on Wednesday announced the promotion of Jeffrey Hassler to the role of president. Hassler joined Starline in 2012. He had most recently served as chief financial officer.

    • Previous president Mason Lapsker will take on the role of CEO. 
    • The company was founded in Canada more than 50 years ago by Joshua Lapsker, Mason Lapsker's grandfather, who passed away at age 79 last year.

    "Our family's deep-rooted belief in the importance of a corporate family itself has been the heartbeat of our organization for over 50 years," says Mason Lapsker. "Jeff started his Starline career as a cost accountant, and in the span of a decade, he's become an indispensable part of our company. With unwavering support and unshakeable dedication, his commitment to Starline, and most importantly, our people, embodies the very principles upon which Starline was founded."

    Hassler had climbed to CFO by 2018. Previous career stops prior to Starline came from outside of promo, including stints in the banking and insurance industries.

    “Jeff’s guidance has already proven to be invaluable in our steady sales growth and innovative decoration offerings,” says Starline CRO Brian Porter. “I have no doubt that with his experience and knowledge of the industry, it will continue our long-standing reputation for top-tier service and innovation.”

    Written by: Josh Ellis

    Published with Permission from PPAI

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